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Wedlock

  • Date Submitted: 03/12/2011 05:41 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 42.7 
  • Words: 2115
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Teenage pregnancy and out-of-wedlock childbearing were central issues in the debate over welfare reform. They are frequently seen as both the cause of increased welfare costs and caseloads over the last 25 years, and the result of the welfare system itself. Out-of-wedlock births among teenagers have increased dramatically in the last several decades and now account for almost 70% of all teenage births. Yet, trends in teenage sexual activity and childbearing reflect broader trends in sexual and reproductive behavior among women of all ages and income levels. Women age 20 and older, for example, account for more than three-quarters of the unintended pregnancies and abortions that occur each year in the United States. Moreover, despite the sharp increase in teenage out-of-wedlock births, the increase has been even greater among older women. As a result, teenagers account for a much smaller proportion of out-of-wedlock births today than they did in the 1970s. Contrary to what I previously thought, only 5% of mothers on welfare are teenagers, and just 1%, or about 32,000, are under age 18. However, a large proportion of women who begin childbearing as teenagers eventually end up on welfare, and those who do tend to need assistance for a long period of time. Proposals have been based on two basic assumptions: that poor, unmarried teenagers deliberately get pregnant and have babies in order to collect welfare and set up their own households; and that a prohibition on benefits will, in and of itself, discourage out-of-wedlock births. Through the research I’ve done I found that the great majority of poor teenagers use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, and that most births to poor adolescents are unintended. It also suggests that most women, including teenagers, would prefer to give birth once they are married. This paper examines teenage sexual and reproductive behavior, in addition to key behavior differences among adolescents of varying income levels. It explores the...

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